Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Astros Offense Getting a Bad Rap

After the Astros nearly got no-hit, again, by Yu Darvish (who might be training to throw lefty, so he can have two shots to no-hit the Astros in a 4 game set), the Astros' offense endured a lot of criticism. Here's the thing though, Yu Darvish is a really good pitcher, who has held opponents to 3 hits or less in 10 of his 23 starts. And, since the All Star break, (an arbitrary endpoint yes, but also a time that roughly corresponds to when the Astros' personnel began to shift away from the likes of Pena, Cedeno, Martinez to Villar, Grossman, Wallace, Hoes etc.), the offense hasn't actually been half bad. Okay, maybe half bad, but not all the way bad, that's for sure.

In the second half, the Astros offense has put up a collective line of .237/.302/.386. That doesn't look too great, but put in league context, it starts to look a little better. You can look to several numbers to do that. My personal favorites are wOBA and wRC+.* By both numbers, the Astros rank 19th in the second half. That's not great, by any means, but hardly fits the notion than they are woefully inept on offense. They have also been fairly great on the basepaths. Their 33 stolen bases in that time frame is tied for 1st in the majors, and their 4.0 baserunning runs above replacement are 3rd in the league. This total package has resulted in 99 runs in the second half, 14th in the league and 9th in the AL.

They offense still strikes out a ton, and because of that is prone to nights like they had against Darvish. And this is a small sample, so we can't really know whether this is the team's true talent level. But the Astros offense has kept them in most games lately, and is a huge reason why they have had a lead in 18 of 24 games played since the break. The blame for losing all but 5 of those games can be laid squarely at the feet of another part of the team. I wonder who that could be.

*A special note to Brian McTaggart, who claims "no one knows what wRC+ is nor should they."  wRC+ (and also wOBA) attempts to do the same thing as the more popular OPS and OPS+ stat does, weigh on base percentage and slugging percentage to arrive at a one number measure of offensive performance. However, OPS is a somewhat flawed stat, as it weighs OBP equally with slugging, plus the fact that it really makes no sense mathematically to add OBP, which used PA as a denominator, to slugging, which uses AB. wOBA and wRC recognize that OBP is more valuable than slugging, and, instead of simply adding them, calculates a new number based on their relative weights. Its a more accurate summary of offensive performance. So now you know what it is. It is up to you to decide whether you should. Just please don't use batting average and call it a day.